E-commerce giant Alibaba Group is betting on China’s nascent smart-home market with the launch of a new mobile app designed to let consumers control their home appliances and other household devices remotely using smartphones and tablet computers.
A mobile smart-home app called Ali-smart will be available this Spring on the latest versions of MX4 phones made by Chinese smartphone-maker Meizu. The Ali-smart app has been integrated with Meizu’s Lifekit smart-device control interface, Meizu officials said today at a press conference in Beijing.
Released on Nov. 11, the MX4 is the flagship product for Meizu, a Zhuhai-based company that has gained some traction in China’s competitive smartphone market selling full-featured but affordable devices.
Tech companies around the world have long pursued smart-home technologies—for example, Apple is currently offering solutions under its HomeKit initiative while Google last year spent $3.2 billion to buy Nest Labs, a maker of Internet-connected smart devices for the home. But the industry has yet to settle on standard protocols that will allow integration among and communication between a wide variety of household and mobile devices.
The technology being pursued in China by Ali-smart and Meizu has backing from device makers. Ali-smart says it has partnered with more than 100 appliance and electronics manufacturers, including Hisense, BeiAng, and Aux Group, producing products ranging from air conditioners to water heaters to network routers.
“The smart home era won’t come until diverse smart home appliances and the data they generate can be well connected into the system, where big data technology can be applied,” said Chen Lijuan, Ali-smart senior director, in a statement.
One thing that's been holding the technology back is the lack of widely accepted “hub,” a commonly used device that connects all smart devices and controls them. Increasingly, this hub is looking to be the smartphone. “We hope our smart-home vision will come true sooner” following the debut of Ali-smart. Chen said. “Ali-smart is working with partners to offer customers a better user experience on mobile.”